Unfree Wheeling: Amusingly Surreal Vintage Soviet Auto Ads

The Soviet Union not only manufactured cars, they exported them to buyers charmed (or duped) by some amusingly and bemusingly photographed advertisements.



Putin the pedal to the metal lately? Don’t let the jet-fighter-like rear fender air intakes fool you, the ZAZ-968 “Zaporozhets” wasn’t exactly a muscle car even by Soviet standards. Built at the Zaporizhian Automobile Factory in Melitopol, Ukrainian SSR from 1971 through 1980, the ZAZ-968 was propelled by a 40hp air-cooled V4 engine mounted in the rear. Export versions were upgraded with international-spec headlights, a safety glass windscreen and an anti-theft steering lock which was rarely, if ever, tested.



Wonder if that guitar-playing model knows “Back In The USSR”. Designed to be a “people’s car” that was sturdy yet affordable, the Zaporozhets is fondly recalled by Russians of a certain age… including some guy named Vladimir Putin. According to the Russian President’s official website, Putin’s mother won a ZAZ-968 in a lottery when young Vlad was a third year university student. His parents then gave the car to Putin – no word if he frequently drove it shirtless.

Whole LADA Love






Russian car manufacturer AvtoVAZ, based in Tolyatti, Samara Oblast based their boxy Lada Classic on the mid-sixties Fiat 124 sedan. Between 1966 and 2012, over 20 million Classic sedans and station wagons had been sold without the vehicle undergoing a major design change. Dig that groovy vinyl roof on the last ad above; it kinda breaks up the Red Square look.




About 60% of all Lada Classics were exported to both East Bloc and West Bloc nations – the USA being a notable exception; Americans had to wait for the Yugo to “enjoy” owning a workers-paradise-made copy of a Fiat. Note what appears to be (at first glance) a Soviet laptop computer in the faux photoshoot ad above.


AvtoVAZ introduced the VAZ-2108 in 1984 with export versions named Samara and domestic market cars labeled Sputnik – hey, Plymouth had a Satellite so why not? The French copy on the ad above translates to “More stylish and less expensive. Hold on! Yeah, hold on to your wallet.